Gurteen – Knowledge – Cynefin – Complexity

Where to start – I have 12 pages of notes from David Gurteen’s 3rd Knowledge Management Conference in London yesterday 3rd March 2004. (Matt Mower has blogged notes too.) The main speakers were David Snowden (IBM / Cynefin) and various advocates and users of the Cynefin framework – Martyn Laycock, Bruce Cronin, Les Johnson, Anabelle Mark. Personal impressions …

Overwhelming sense of re-inforcement, of those ill-expressed ideas of my own in this blog and my underlying thesis, by the Dave Snowden / Cynefin consulting framework analysis of modelling organisational complexity. This wave is a “Kondratiev Tsunami”, and Cynefin has given us some surfboards on which to survive when it thunders up the beach of general business management in 3 or 5 years time. Hype ? Actually I hope not, ‘cos we (all) really need this to happen on so many levels.

Not much is actually new. Boston Consulting 2×2 grids, as I’ve opined before, but with a new twist of axes that focus on what really defines the manageability of an organisation – order<>unorder and complexity<>simplicity. The way human behaviour contributes to that order and complexity (as complex-adaptive, post-rationalising agents in complex-adaptive systems”), and the socially and culturally conditioned “schemata” we humans hold to guide our decision making, are thrown into immediate spotlight as the issues to be “managed”. Anthropology, evolutionary psychology, and story-telling are as old as human life, and surprisingly for some, many philosophical writers and management commentators have been pointing out their relevance to what makes the world go round for aeons too. Cynefin get’s this stuff into management powerpoint-land not a day too soon for those of us in businesses riding the Information & Communications Technologies wave. Aren’t we all ?

How many of those presenters and participants yesterday had languages and philosophy as their first degrees ? How many had learned their wisdom in cybernetics and the like ? Most.

The questions are ancient – when you act or plan to act, how do you know what’s true and how do you know what’s right ? Newton / Einstein, Socrates / Pirsig, Rudyard Kipling / Douglas Adams / James Willis – all human life is here.

More coherent report to follow.

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